I know it’s pretty much past time to be thinking about this. I mentioned that Advent didn’t have the “waiting” quality I usually experience, but some thoughts have been bubbling away since I heard Fr G’s epiphany sermon and saw CM’s blog post and amazing photos.
This has more the quality of a “thought” as opposed to an “emotional” reflection. Basically, it was that there are parts of me – desires or drives – like each of the people in the Advent, Christmas. and Epiphany drama.
Take the 3 Kings / Wise Men – through their knowledge and study of nature, they recognized this unusual and amazing star. They were learned – observant – childlike – open – curious – and also reverant. (The scientists I’ve known generally share these characteristics.) Their love of nature revealed this unusul event to them, and they gathered together what they needed to make this long journey from their homeland to find out more. They brought rich gifts to show their reverence. They didn’t send someone else to discover what was going on – they were willing to undertake the hardships of the journey to search out truth and meaning. They asked questions of people to help them in their journey. (I wonder if they worried that asking questions would make them look naive or ignorant, or if they were just so curious and on fire that they had to ask.) They shared their knowledge as they journeyed. And when they arrived – I wonder if the situation they found surprised them – if it looked different from what they expected? Anyway they showed reverence to the child and offered their rich gifts. (Note that they came on a mission of discovery and to offer gifts – not to ask for anything). My favourite phrasing in this story is how the star “filled them with delight.” Then , they were warned in a dream not to go to Herod. I wonder what that dream was like to them – if they were of a different religion, God probably spoke to them in a way that was meaningful to them.
CM reminds me of the 3 Kings with her stunning nature photos, and her passion for hiking.
What struck me especially during Sunday’s sermon was that there are parts of me like Herod. When he heard about signs that this new power, this new life had entered *his* domain, he didn’t welcome it at all. It threatened his power, his lifestyle, his comfort, his usual habits. He pretended to be interested to find out more, and then resolved to make sure this new life couldn’t threaten his old life. As Fr G described this, I thought – How often do I shut down the possibility of new life because it threatens my sovereignity, the way I make decisions for my own convenience, comfort and pleasure? As ardently as I desire change – in my core being there is a resistance to things that will be uncomfortable or difficult – regardless of the reward or benefit for my spiritual (or mental, emotional, physical etc.) being. Herod went to great lengths to kill off any chance of the new life, the new power rising within his kingdom. I don’t know if there’s any parallels there to me and how I live my life or make decisions, but I hope not!
I haven’t given as much thought to the roles of the other people in the Christmas story as they welcomed this child, God made human. I’m sure there are parts of me that desire and welcome the coming new life, God’s spirit and recreation of who I am to someone closer to who I should be. There are the angels, singing for glory and telling everyone how to recognize God, advising people of how to shape their lives to better follow the will of God. There are the shepherds who receive this amazing news and go immediately to worship. These humble, “low,” earthy people who are the first outsiders to know, and who come to worship in simplicity and poverty. There is Joseph, charged with protecting the baby and his wife, attentive to God’s voice in dreams, resourceful and courageous (I’m sure it wasn’t good news to have to go to a foreign land and scrape out a living there instead of returning to their home town and families.) Then of course there was Mary, who so beautifully assented to God’s will in her life and waited in expectation for the baby, trusting God and Joseph – even when he got them moving in the middle of the night to escape from Herod.
And then there is the perspective of the baby Jesus himself, and of God the Father who sent him here. I don’t have many thoughts on that just now, but it’s out there. I’ve probably missed the role of others that I could meditate on as well – the people of the village who had no room but offered a stable. Did they bring food? Did Joseph ask some of the women to help birth the baby? Did they offer these things without any realization of their significance (I think yes) yet their help would have been so critical in bringing this new life into being. Without even realizing it, their actions helped to bring and nourish a new life, a new destiny into being. I can think of many in my life who are not believers in the Christian faith, yet their love and goodness have brought me along this path in faith.